Preparing for College: Cool Ideas for Summer (for teens)

By — National Association for College Admission Counseling
Updated on Mar 13, 2009


After weeks of chilly rain, the weather here at the NACAC home office in Alexandria, Virginia, has turned warm and sunny. Suddenly, we are thinking fondly of summer: afternoons at the pool, hamburgers fresh from the grill, and wearing shorts and sandals after months of boots and sweaters.

Spending three months working on your tan or perfecting your strategy for your favorite video game seems attractive when you're knee-deep in calculus. But the savvy student knows that the long summer vacation can be an opportunity to try out new things, make money, travel, help the community, or do any of a variety of fun and interesting activities. The key is to start exploring options now, before school is out. Here are some ideas to get you started on planning a fun—and meaningful—summer.

Taking time out

Summer can be a great time to do some thinking and planning for the school year ahead. No matter what else you do this summer, allow yourself some time alone. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. What activities or academic subjects excite you? What talents do you want to make the most of in the coming months? What careers or college majors are you interested in?

Different people use "alone time" in different ways. Perhaps you like to take walks or ride your bike while you're thinking and dreaming. Maybe you enjoy writing in a journal or listening to your favorite CD. Do whatever refreshes or inspires you. You may wish to jot down ideas or personal goals that come to you during your time alone, but don't pressure yourself. There is no goal to alone time except getting to know yourself better.

Getting a job

Summer is a great time to make a little spending money and get experience in the world of work. And choosing a summer job carefully can give you a lot more than just money.

"It's an important time to line up your high school experiences with things you are planning for life after high school," says John Boshoven, counselor for continuing education at Community High School (MI) and director of college counseling at the Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit.

So if you're interested in becoming a lawyer, try to find a job at a law office. Thinking about medicine? See what jobs are available at the nearest hospital. Even if you end up cleaning floors in the hospital cafeteria, you can observe how a hospital works and look at the kinds of careers are available in the health care field.

Even if you can't get a job that's close to your career interests, you can still learn plenty of skills that will serve you well later in life. "[A summer job] teaches students discipline, time management, and how to budget money," says Charles Purcell, director of guidance at Mater Dei School (CA).

"Having some responsibility is going to go a long way [in] college," says Joddy Meidinger, director of admissions at Presentation College (SD). Your experience in holding down a job will prepare you for the increased responsibility and independence of being a college student.

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